Realistically, the average person just cares about a person's top 10 or 20 albums and AT MOST it's usually Top 40, maybe 50. I of course try to shatter that idea and want to show off everything that is worth checking out. But to make the 98% of the people who look album Top Albums Of The Year Lists, here you go with Albums 40-21 of my Top 100 Albums of 2015!
40.) Riverside- Love, Fear And The Time Machine
FFO- Progressive Rock, Ambient
Riverside has always been a hit or miss band for me. What I love, I truly love and what misses for me, well, I should probably go back and give another shot at some point. Given the opportunity of getting to talk to Mariusz Duda about a month before their appearance at ProgPower, it really gave me a whole new appreciation for the band and this album in particular. This album is very mellow in comparison to most of their work. That's what makes this album really click. Up until this album Riverside had really focused on more depressing music and this time around, they started off going in the depressive route but in the end of the album, trying to put things into perspective and create some joyous music. The song Discard Your Fear (which is easily one of the best Riverside songs ever made) is a great example of Riverside keeping their signature tone, but creating positive music full of hope. While there is a couple heavy moments throughout, this is a very mellow and proggy album that takes you on an emotional roller coaster. I wouldn't want it any other way.
39.) Napalm Death- Apex Predator - Easy Meat
FFO- Grindcore, Death Metal, Noise
Napalm Death, the most legendary name in Grindcore, is back with one of their angriest albums ever. The album is first and foremost showing dismay for human culture and life in this present day. While not the most groundbreaking album in Napalm Death's career, it is an absolute highlight to what the band is capable of. A great mix of Grind, Death Metal, and Groove makes this such a fun listen. The songs really go over well live as well. An absolute must for any fan of the genres!
38.) Tremonti- Cauterize
FFO- Heavy Metal
On the second solo album from Creed and Alter Bridge guitarist, Mark Tremonti, he has created one of the most accessible pseudo-Death Metal instrumentation albums ever. The vocals are far from being Death Metal, but the whole album, instrumentally, is a mix of Radio Rock and Death Metal. A strange mix of paper, but Tremonti makes it sound completely natural. Very brutal at time while still showing the catchy radio style that he can pull off flawlessly. For anyone who loves the instrumentation of Death Metal but hates the vocals or anyone who wishes Radio Rock could be as heavy as Death Metal, this is the album for you!
37.) Powerwolf- Blessed And Possessed
FFO- Power Metal, Speed Metal, Heavy Metal
Powerwolf is an amazing band that has been gaining recognition ever since their beginning in 2003. With Black Metal imagery, but with a Power Metal and Speed Metal influences sound, Powerwolf has their signature sound, but have created their best album to date. Lyrically, instrumentally, songwriting and overall themes of the album makes this such an enjoyable ride from start to finish. Their bonus Covers CD is especially awesome as well with an amazing clean vocal cover of Amon Amarth's Gods Of War Arise, proving once again that Amon Amarth is really a Power Metal band with Growls.
36.) Foreign Objects- Galactic Prey
FFO- Progressive Metal, Heavy Metal
From the ashes of the very sad split between CKY and CKY vocalist, Deron Miller, Miller restarted his former project Foreign Objects to really showcase his Progressive, Death Metal, and Heavy Metal sides that weren't featured much in CKY, while showing off his signature blend of melodic and harmonic riffs, hooks, and grooves. An absolute blockbuster of an album. If you have ever enjoyed anything that Deron Miller has done in the past, there is no reason for you not to immediately fall in love with this album.
35.) Panopticon- Autumn Eternal
FFO- Atmospheric Black Metal, North American Folk Metal
Panopticon's latest album is indeed a legendary album. While the band's last 2 albums, Kentucky and Roads To The North, were both Top 20 albums for me when they were released, that does not take away how awesome Autumn Eternal is with it being number 35 on my list this year. Sadly, just the luck of the draw this year. The songwriting is quite possibly the strongest in the band's career. The Black Metal segments are top notch and it has a great atmosphere behind it as well. The only downside for me (which isn't much of one because the album is fantastic) is that the North American Folk (Bluegrass) Metal side isn't shown off nearly as much as other albums, but when those sides do hit, it is awesome. A very passionate Black Metal album that is a must have for anyone who enjoys any of the genres listed above. It's hard not to fall in love within the first couple songs.
34.) Casablanca- Miskatonic Graffiti
FFO- Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Heavy Metal
Casablanca has created the first act of a three act album series with Miskatonic Graffiti. While I'm not going to give any spoilers about what the story is about, it is really cool. Musically, the band ventures from a Black Sabbath/Doom Metal vibe with their opening track Enter The Mountains to an almost Indie Rock vibe on the album's title track, to their signature bland of 70s and 80's Hard Rock and Heavy Metal throughout the middle of the album. While easily being the lightest album in my Top 50 albums of the year. This deserves equal love as any other album on the list. Give it a shot, it's worth it!
33.) Shining- International Blackjazz Society
FFO- Blackjazz, Industrial
I heard one person describe this album as the best album Nine Inch Nails never put out. That is almost an accurate statement, especially with the song House Of Control. This album is a signature Shining (Nor) album, while at times a much more mature sounding album. Plenty of the free form Blackjazz moments, there is much more of the Industrial moments and *GASP* Hard Rock and 4/4 moments. It is a stellar album from front to back. It is the perfect gateway album for the band that will help you get into the rest of their catalog. Shining knocked it out of the park once again. I couldn't be happier.
32.) Carach Angren- This Is No Fairytale
FFO- Symphonic Black Metal
A very twisted and morbid retelling of the classic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. The music behind it is very majestic, extreme, evil and oddly soothing. Some can call it over the top and cheesy for using a fairy tale as the theme of the album, but in this style, it works so perfectly. The music is right up their with every other Carach Angren album and stellar production for Black Metal. I wish more bands would take a big risk like this when it comes to their lyrical content and making it their own. This is a Black Metal masterpiece.
31.) Between The Buried And Me- Coma Ecliptic
FFO- Progressive Metal
I am very sad to see this album ranked this low as BTBAM is one of my all time favorite bands, but again, that has no bearing on how good the album is. This album was a complete and utter watershed moment for BTBAM. The band is embracing their Progressive Rock side now a days and fully released it with Coma Ecliptic. That either leaves you a very happy person or very upset. I am of the former. in all honesty, I wish this was the album they would have put out after Colors! I'm sure I am in the extreme minority on that one as many people have shown their hatred for the album *and I'm sure will let me know that fact once again once they read this* But they did it absolutely right on this album. I'm not going to convince any haters of the album with this review and I'm not going to try either. you either get it or you don't. But I get it and I love it!
30.) Pyramaze- Disciples Of The Sun
FFO- Power Metal, Progressive Metal
Pyramaze is by far one of the most underrated bands in Power Metal. They write some of the most glorious movements in Power Metal. Keyboardist/Songwriter Jonah Weingarten is an absolute genius at writing catchy, heavy and moving songs that grab you and never let you go. There is no better example of this fact than this album! Every song is exactly what I said: catchy, heavy and moving. The band doesn't stick to a formula. They just go with what works for them and do it so very, very well. I can't to go see Pyramaze at ProgPower in 2016. They will be one of the best moments of the whole festival. If it didn't already, this album clinches the fact that everyone is going to be blown away by the band who are not already. Just you watch!
29.) Enslaved- In Times
FFO- Progressive Black Metal
Much like BTBAM above. Enslaved has become a band that I've become more in love with with every new release that more people are trying to shy away from as being proggy seems to have a negative repercussion to it now a days (hope that doesn't last) Much like the last few Enslaved albums, the band has focused much more away from their Black Metal roots and focusing on Progressive Metal mixed with Black Metal and atmosphere creating an otherworldly effect. A ton more clean vocals are on this album than ever before makes this more of a watershed album for the band. While the last couple Enslaved albums have been Top 20 albums for me. Much like BTBAM again, this was just the luck of the draw being at 29. I do love this album a lot!
28.) Wearing Scars- Butterfly
FFO- Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Progressive Metal
A new priority of Mutiny Within vocalist Chris Clancy, Wearing Scars takes all of the most memorable parts of Mutiny Within and makes it more radio friendly. This is exactly the type of band that I wish was on Top 40 Rock radio instead of what we get subjected to every hour of every day. Even with it being a lot simpler music than Metal fans are used to, its completely solid and from the heart. I can't ask for anything else from a band and this is a pristine example of what would make Rock and Metal great once again.
27.) Night Demon- Curse Of The Damned
FFO- Speed Metal, Heavy Metal, Classic Metal
Night Demon has released a classic debut album that really feels like that it will stand the test of time. It is just a killer (haha, phrasing) album from start to finish, bringing back the classic moments of Speed Metal and bands that used to worship Iron Maiden and Judas Priest without sounding like complete knock offs. Night Demon have their own sound and they do it perfectly. They even have a comic book based off the album, which serves as a soundtrack, which is pretty cool if I do say so myself. Night Demon is a band on the rise and I know they are only going to be getting bigger and better from here. I can't wait to see what happens next.
26.) Hope Drone- Cloak Of Ash
FFO- Atmospheric Black Metal
If I said it once, I can't say it enough, Australia is the best country (and continent) in the world right now when it comes to Metal and in the world of Atmospheric Black Metal, there is no better example of the best than Hope Drone. While each song is noticeably long on Cloak Of Ash and the Self Titled EP debut. The album showcases the Nihility of life lyrically, emotionally driven passages mixed with incredible musicianship. If you are looking for the best Atmospheric Black Metal album of 2015 and of the last few years, check out the debut album from Hope Drone. This is Black Metal at it's best!
25.) Leprous- The Congregation
FFO- Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal
Leprous has been noticeably getting lighter and lighter on each album, while still keeping the core sound of Leprous. The Congregation is easily the lightest album in the band's career, but it is so magnificent. One critique I've heard from people this year is that the album is a bit samey from start to finish. While I don't think it's the case, if you look at the album as one song split into 11 tracks, it will completely make sense. There is so many moving moments that go from mellow and melodic to absolute chaos and feel completely natural. Leprous hit it out of the park this time and if they keep it up, they will be one of the most legendary Progressive bands of our time!
24.) My Dying Bride- Feel The Misery
FFO- Doom Metal
One of the most depressing bands in Metal history is back with their *unlucky* 13th album. The depressing moments happen right from the start with most depressing song title of 2015 And My Father Left Forever. The album is classic My Dying Bride. But even with all of that said, the album is a bit more uplifting than possibly any other album in their career. With the album really being about asking why people feel miserable. Musically. The band somewhat brings back their Death Doom sound, but still maintain a predominantly clean vocal approach. Some faster songs with double bass, a lot of slow moving monsters and overall, just a dark experience that is not to be missed!
23.) Borealis- Purgatory
Power Metal, Progressive Metal
While there are enough differences to say otherwise, the easiest (and still flawed) way to describe Borealis is a Canadian Evergrey. I do mean that with the best intentions and highest regards and Evergrey will always be one of my favorite points. Hell, possibly the most legendary picture of me is at ProgPower at an Evergrey acoustic show *I'll post it at the bottom of the reviews, Thanks ProgPower for the pic!* But back to Borealis. The band does an amazing mixture of Power and Prog and Symphonic elements. It makes for a very emotionally listening experience. I really hope Borealis makes it to Minnesota at some point (or at ProgPower in the future) because I'd love to see these guys live. If Purgatory is a good representation of the band, I can see an amazing future for the band. And they will earn every second of it.
22.) Dracula- Swing Of Death
FFO- Power Metal, Theatrical, Hard Rock
Jorn Lande and Trond Holter created a very ambitious album about the life of Dracula. Doing this would either lead to the most unintentional cheesy album of our day or it would lead to a phenomenal album. It was the latter. The album covers an amazing interpretation of the story of Dracula while covering a lot of different genres to match the mood of the album. I think I can pretty much say the song, Walking On Water, is my favorite single of 2015. This is truly an album that needs to be heard in full. And it is relatively short as well, so it does not feel like it drags in any way. Simply a brilliant album that I hope others will get to check out. It deserves any and all praise it receives.
21.) Ascendia- The Lion And The Jester
FFO- Dream Theater meets Killswitch Engage
Now that all of the people who ran away after reading the FFO part, let me explain. Take the musicality of Dream Theater, take out the "Wankery" that people seem to associate with them and replace it with the memorable melodies, harmonies and catchiness of Killswitch Engage along with powerful Howard Jones doing Power Metal style cleans. The lead single and first song on the album At The End Of It All is the perfect example of this. I knew the band well before I made the trip to ProgPower this year, but once I saw that Ascendia will be playing ProgPower next year, it really made me love the band even more. They perfectly combine power, prog, and the non Metalcore side of Killswitch Engage and make a truly brilliant album that I hope will launch them into the stratosphere. We need more bands like Ascendia, but until then we still have Ascendia
COMING UP NEXT: THAT DRUMMER GUY'S TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2015
Oh yeah, this pic!
Panopticon plays a style of Metal that sounds so strange at the sound of the genre infusing, but makes total sense. They are a mix between Atmospheric Black Metal and American Bluegrass. Hopefully with something like that, it makes you jump up and go "WOAH, I GOTTA CHECK THAT OUT!" Their last album, Kentucky, was raised to major acclaim. Could Panopticon possibly be able to do this again with their new album, Roads To The North?
The album starts with the 9:36 song, The Echos Of A Disharmonic Evensong. it starts off quite strange before a longer drum fill leading into the whole band joining in. From this point onwards it shows the great mix of Atmospheric Black Metal with the folkish, Bluegrass tinge in the background. When the vocals aren't in motion the Bluegrass takes over with the Black Metal for a great atmospheric sound that fans of either genre could really appreciate. The middle of the song breaks down acoustically before gaining back the speed and Metal to help close out the song. Up next is the longest song on the album, Where Mountains Pierce The Sky. The song starts off with a great Folk/Bluegrass feel that really makes you feel like you are on the countryside just as it hits sundown. This does not last when the band finally kicks in at the 1:26 mark. Instead of kicking into full on Black Metal mode, it stays very midtempo and somewhat matches the Bluegrass in the beginning of the song. at the 3:36 mark it hits one of the most beautiful metal moments on the album where all the harmonies and melodies hit together and create a very surreal moment. Throughout the rest of the song it keeps up a faster tempo and adds a good atmospheric feel. At the very end of the song it leads into an acoustic guitar/fiddle riff that leads into the next song. That next song is called The Long Road, which is separated into three tracks, The Long Road I. One Last Fire is a campfire style song that focuses on the bluegrass instruments (Fiddle, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, etc). This instrumental makes up the entire track that leads into The Long Road II. Capricious Miles, which starts with a ferocious drum intro and leads into one of the best riffs in the album. The track goes through many different variances in tempo and instrumentation. In the middle of the track, it gets quite ethereal. It almost feels like a section right out of Opeth's album, Damnation. This also continues until almost right near the end where the blast beats come back and lead onto the final tack of the song, The Long Road III. The Sigh Of Summer. This starts off very Post Rockish and ethereal. At the 3:00 mark it picks back up somewhat with the Black Metal feel, but still continues on the ethereal Post Rock in the background. A little over the half way mark it gets a bit into a early day In Flames type riff before unleashing a fantastic guitar solo filled with killer double bass and leading back into an incredible Black Metal/Bluegrass riff. The song ends with a tribal background with some marching soundclips to close things out. Norwegian Nights is the next song and it is a 3 minute killer Bluegrass song that oddly enough has some clean vocals. Very acoustic paced and a nice break from Metal. From out of nowhere, In Silence comes and is easily the heaviest opening on the entire album. It almost feels likes like a Brutal death Metal riff with atmospheric guitars and fiddle outlays. After the brutality, it goes into somewhat of a Post Rock feel again with Black Metal screams. This leads back into a rollercoaster of dynamics between Post Rock and Black Metal throughout the rest of the song. Near the end of the song it goes a bit lo-fi on the drums while the Bluegrass section takes over again before one final blast of brutality to close things out. The final tack on this album is Chase The Grain, which arguably may be the finest song from Panopticon to date. While the Metal section is doing a killer Atmospheric Black Metal riff, the Bluegrass section is over top doing amazing leads and adding real emotion that tugs at you. The entire song has this great feeling of epic emotions that can make you close your eyes, slowly raise your fist and nod your head slowly. at the 3:07 mark it breaks down into an acoustic passage. It kicks back into Black Metal mode shortly after, but in a nice left turn, things get very symphonic with a dark and eerie sound that leads into a sinister Symphonic Black Metal segment. Right before the end of the album things get back into a nearly normal state where it plays somewhat of a reprise of the first riff of the song before closing off with an acoustic guitar that fades away to finish of Roads To The North.
Roads To The North, much like it's predecessor, Kentucky, is a spellbinding album. It's enchanting and hypnotizing. If you give it a real shot, the mixture of Black Metal and Folk and Bluegrass is something that hasn't really been captured before in a memorable way. This could be the breakthrough album for Panopticon that could lead them into possible Deafheaven territory, where taking Black Metal into a new light can get some real recognition. This is not an album to miss out on, be sure to pick this up and enjoy every second of it!
Panopticon- Roads To The North available August 1st via Bindrune Recordings and Nordvis
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.